Tell Your True Tale is a writing workshop devised by journalist Sam Quinones and based on the acclaimed True Tales stories he’s been writing for much of his 29-year journalism career.IMG_1335

The goal of TYTT is to demystify writing, while helping new writers cultivate their storytelling voices.

Among the biggest challenges new writers face is figuring out what to write and how to start. Tell Your True Tale workshops get them to think of their own experiences, and the experiences of those around them, as raw material for avoiding writer’s block.

Often, this approach works best when new writers are from communities or families that have never told their stories.

Then, by insisting on telling stories in limited space, the True Tales approach forces writers to hone their pieces and their imaginations by eliminating unnecessary words, finding reader-grabbing leads and endings, and making the hard choices that are essential to strong writing, no matter the genre.

As you’ll see from the stories on this site, the goal is short nonfiction that reads like fiction.

All were written by people who had published very little, or nothing at all, before this.

Over the years, Sam has done workshops from elementary schools to community colleges. Each group or class is different, so he customizes each workshop to each group’s needs.

For the last two years, he has also been doing workshops regularly in L.A. County, supported generously by the Los Angeles County Library system.

The first workshops have been at the East LA Library. The goal is to expand them to other libraries in the system.IMG_3018

Since 2013, these workshops have blossomed, often with long waiting lists, and produced five volumes of short stories. Each volume is celebrated with a book presentation, which themselves have been attended by growing numbers of community residents.

Since its inception, though, Tell Your True Tale has also eagerly accepted Internet submissions of true stories, usually around 1500 words in length, from writers across the country and around the world. Many of the stories posted on the site came from writers who never attended a Quinones TYTT workshop.IMG_3034

However, as with workshopped pieces, all stories are subject to editing; almost always rewrites are requested before posting on the site.

Remember, it’s not writing if it ain’t been rewritten.

So if you have a story that you think works, send it in. The fun of storytelling awaits.


Sam Quinones, editor of Tell Your True Tale, has been a journalist for almost 30 years.Sam Promo Photo Cropped

He worked for ten years at the Los Angeles Times. Before that, he spent a decade (1994-2004) working as a
freelance writer in Mexico. From those years, he published two books of narrative nonfiction.

True Tales from Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino and the Bronx was published in 2001.

In 2007, he published Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration. His books were reviewed in major publications (The Economist, L.A. Times, The Nation) and highly acclaimed. Hundreds of university classes have used them. The San Francisco Chronicle Book Review called him “the most original American writer on Mexico and the border out there.”

In April, 2015, he published his third book of narrative nonfiction – Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic through Bloomsbury Press.

Dreamland was selected one of the Best Books of the Year by Amazon.com, Slate.com, Wall Street Journal, Seattle Times, Buzzfeed, Entertainment Weekly, the Daily Beast, Boston Globe, Bloomberg Business, and others.

He also writes a blog –  True Tales: A Reporter’s Blog. For more, visit his website: www.samquinones.com.